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Gabon

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Gabon because of the high levels of crime and political tension. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times.
  • The security situation in Gabon is tense and unpredictable. A failed coup attempt in January 2019 led to a visible military presence on the streets. Be alert and follow the advice of local authorities. See Safety and security
  • You could encounter strikes and political demonstrations across Gabon, especially in Libreville and Port Gentil. Avoid large crowds, protests and demonstrations - they can turn violent. See Safety and security
  • Robberies, armed attacks and other violent crime occurs, especially in Libreville and Port Gentil. Avoid displays of wealth - this can make you a target for crime. See Safety and security
  • Flooding can occur in the rainy seasons from October to mid-December and mid-February to May. Some roads become impassable. Follow advice of local authorities. See Natural disasters
  • Australia doesn't have an Embassy or Consulate in Gabon. The Canadian Honorary Consul in Libreville, Gabon and the Canadian High Commission in Yaoundé, Cameroon, can provide consular assistance to Australians in Gabon. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, can also assist Australians in Gabon.

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

Visas

You'll need a visa to enter Gabon.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Gabon for up-to-date information. Gabon doesn't have diplomatic representation in Australia. The nearest embassies are in Jakarta and Tokyo.

Other formalities

You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Gabon. You'll also need evidence that you've been vaccinated against cholera. If you don't have proof, you may be required to have a vaccine, at your expense, on entry into Gabon.

Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is preventable by vaccination. It is endemic in Gabon. Some airlines won't let you board flights out of Gabon unless you have a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. Read Yellow fever for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever. More information: Yellow fever risk and certification requirements (by country, WHO)

Passport

Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the nearest Australian mission for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Central African Franc (XAF). Declare all amounts of local or foreign currency in excess of XAF200,000 on arrival or departure. Travellers cheques can only be cashed at larger banks in major cities. They must be in either Euros or US Dollars.

Gabon is largely a cash-based economy. Credit cards aren't widely accepted, except at major hotels and restaurants.

ATMs are available in major centres. Contact your bank to make sure that your cards will work. Be careful when withdrawing money from ATMs, as you could be targeted by thieves. See Safety and security.

Safety and security

Crime

Pickpocketing, purse snatching, vehicle break-ins and other petty theft is common, particularly in crowded areas, such as markets, transport hubs and tourist areas.

Violent crime, including robberies and armed attacks, have occurred, especially in Libreville and Port Gentil. Foreigners have been targeted in carjackings, 'snatch–and-grab' robberies from unlocked cars and violent incidents of road rage.

Victims of crime are often targeted when walking alone or at night, especially in isolated areas or on beaches.

There are reports of credit card fraud originating in Gabon.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying expensive watches, jewellery, phones and cameras.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Avoid walking alone, especially at night.
  • Avoid visiting beaches and isolated areas alone, especially at night.
  • Keep vehicles doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight at all times, including when moving.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times.
  • Keep an eye on your credit card at all times, including during transactions.
  • Monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • If you become a victim of violent crime, including rape, seek immediate medical attention. HIV/AIDS is common in Gabon.

Civil unrest and Political tension

You could encounter strikes and political demonstrations in Gabon. These happen across the country but are most common in in Libreville and Port Gentil.

A failed coup attempt in January 2019 led to a visible military presence on the streets.

  • Avoid all large gatherings, protests and demonstrations.
  • Monitor the media for reports of planned or possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Follow instructions from local authorities.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in Gabon. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Ecotourism

Ecotourism is generally considered safe in Gabon, provided you use common sense, travel with a reputable tour company and don't venture too far from your group.

Road travel

You're four times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Gabon than in Australia. Driving hazards include poor road conditions, poorly maintained and overloaded vehicles, local driving practices, and inadequate lighting and road signs, especially outside urban areas. Traffic accidents are common.

Travel outside of major urban centres usually requires the use of a four-wheel drive. Towing and repair services aren't common outside Libreville.

There are police road blocks throughout the country. You may be asked to show identity and motor vehicle registration papers.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • If you hire a vehicle, confirm with your rental company what you're required to carry in your vehicle, such as licensing documents, proof of insurance and safety equipment such as a fire extinguisher.
  • Drive defensively. Be alert to pedestrians, animals and other hazards on the road.
  • Avoid travelling at night.
  • Get up-to-date local advice on road conditions before travel by road, especially during the rainy season.
  • If you're involved in a traffic accident, go to the nearest police station to avoid possible confrontations.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Gabon with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Taxis are generally safe, but they often pick up multiple passengers and take indirect routes.

  • Negotiate the fare with the driver before entering the taxi.
  • Avoid using taxis alone or at night.
  • Use only authorised taxis, and where possible, use hotel taxi and limousine services.

Public transport

Buses and trains in Gabon are reasonably safe, but services are infrequent.

Boat travel

Cases of armed robbery and piracy against commercial shipping have occurred off the coast of Gabon and across the Gulf of Guinea. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) also issues piracy reports on its website.

If you travel by boat in Gabon's waters despite the risks:

  • first check the IMB's piracy reports
  • take appropriate security precautions
  • be alert to threats.

More information: Piracy

Air travel

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Gabon.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and can include lengthy prison sentences. More information: Drugs

Other laws

Serious crimes, including murder and assault, carry the death penalty.

Activities that are illegal in Gabon include:

  • photographing military sites and government buildings, including border posts, airports and the Presidential Palace
  • purchasing or trading in endangered wildlife products, such as ivory and rhino horn, without a licence - more information: Wildlife trade (Department of the Environment, Australia)

Homosexuality isn't illegal but same-sex relationships aren't recognised under Gabonese law. Attempts to have homosexual marriages charged under 'affront to public order' and 'obscenity' laws have occurred. More information: LGBTI travellers.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Dual citizenship is legally recognised in Gabon. However, our assistance to dual nationals can be limited if local authorities consider you a Gabonese citizen. More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

The local community can be intolerant of homosexuality. More information:  LGBTI travellers.

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Pharmaceuticals may be in short supply. Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Yellow fever is endemic and malaria occurs widely throughout the year in Gabon. Other insect-borne diseases (including chikungunya fever, dengue fever, Zika virus, filariasis and African sleeping sickness) also occur. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to Zika virus-affected areas.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof, including with treated mosquito nets
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is common in Gabon. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis and rabies) are prevalent. More serious outbreaks occur from time-to-time.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Gabon are adequate in major cities, but very basic or unavailable in rural areas.

Upfront payment is usually required. If you can't pay up-front, your treatment will likely be delayed.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Natural disasters

Flooding occurs in the rainy seasons from October to mid-December and mid-February to May. During these periods, some roads may become impassable without a four-wheel drive vehicle. Monitor local weather reports.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 177
  • Police: phone 177 or visit the nearest police station
  • Medical emergency: phone 177 or go to the nearest hospital.
  • Medical emergency (mobile phone): depending on your mobile network, phone 1300, 0174 or 0880 (SOS Médecins) for medical assistance.  

Operators may only speak French.

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism products and services

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia doesn't have an Embassy or Consulate in Gabon. The Canadian Honorary Consul in Libreville, Gabon and the Canadian High Commission in Yaoundé, Cameroon, can provide limited consular assistance to Australians in Gabon. This service includes the issuing of Provisional Travel Documents. Limited consular services are also available from the Australian High Commission in Nigeria.

Canadian Honorary Consul, Libreville  

Quartier Batterie IV
Pont de Gué-Gué (1st Street behind the EU)
Libreville, Gabon
Telephone: +241 01 44 29 65
Email: conhongab@gmail.com

Canadian High Commission, Yaounde

Les Colonnades Building
New Bastos, Road 1 792
Yaoundé, Cameroon
Telephone: +237 222 50 39 00
Facsimile: +237 222 50 39 04
Email: yunde@international.gc.ca
Website: canadainternational.gc.ca/cameroon-cameroun.

Australian High Commission, Abuja

Office mobile: +234 (0) 906 540 5487
 Email: ahc.abuja@dfat.gov.au
Website: nigeria.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in Nigeria
Twitter: @AusHCAbuja

Contact the High Commission to clarify what services are available and/or to make an appointment.

If you're unable to contact the High Commission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information